New York Times bestselling author Karen White’s iconic series about a quirky psychic realtor (yes, you read that right!), set in historic Charleston, continues this winter. A long-anticipated gift to her fans, this holiday season White released her first ever Christmas novel.
Jane Ammeson, who writes the Shelf Life column for The Times of Northwest Indiana and shelflife.blog, interviewed Karen about THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET, the sixth book in her Tradd Street Series,
With each new release, Karen’s national platform grows. Her previous installment in the series, The Guests on South Battery (2017), was a New York Times hardcover bestseller. Her books have been featured on Southern Living, Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James blog, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and more. The author of over twenty books and 12 New York Times bestsellers, she has almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages.
JA: Since you’re not a realtor and you’re not seeing ghosts (we don’t think so, anyway!), do you have much in common with Melanie—like are you super-organized with lots of charts and spread sheets, etc.?
KW: Let’s just say that people who know me who have also read the Tradd Street series seem to think that Melanie _is_ me. I’m going to neither confirm nor deny, but let’s just say that I do love to be organized and I also adore sweets (although Melanie’s metabolism is simply something I aspire to). She and I are both ABBA fans and neither of us can text without many alarming typos.
JA: You grew up all over the world but started off in the south and think of yourself as a Southern girl. Why did you choose historic Charleston for the setting of your series?
KW: My parents (and extended family) are all from the South—mainly Mississippi—which is where I get my Southern roots. I went to college in New Orleans (Tulane) and actually planned to set the series there. However, the year I started writing the first book was 2005, the year Katrina wreaked so much havoc on the city and her citizens. I knew that in the series I was planning to write that this sort of natural disaster and its repercussions wouldn’t fit. I would return to New Orleans and the storm for The Beach Trees, but for the series I needed to find another Southern city that had gorgeous architecture, lots of history, and plenty of ghosts. Charleston was an obvious choice.
JA: Your Tradd Street series novels seem to require a lot of research into older homes, renovations and history, can you tell us about that?
KW: Since I was a little girl I’ve been obsessed with old houses. They didn’t need to be grand or even well-maintained to make me beg my mother to pull the car over to the curb so I could get a better look. When we moved to London, we were fortunate to live in an Edwardian building on Regent’s Park. It had leaded glass windows, thick mahogany doors, and ceiling medallions to make a wedding cake envious. Living in that flat made me believe that I truly could hold a piece of history in my hands. My obsession continues with my daughter who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from the College of Charleston and currently works as an architectural historian. She actually appears in the last two Tradd books (as well as Dreams of Falling) as graduate student Meghan Black.
JA: Can you give readers who may not have read any of your other books about Melanie and Jack a description of The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?
KW: In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard. Unwilling to burden Jack with one more problem and distract him from his writing despite promises that they wouldn’t hold secrets from each other, Melanie takes it upon herself to attempt to solve the mystery behind the ghostly presence—with unsettling results that Melanie may or may not be able to resolve.
JA: Are your ghosts based upon real life (if you can call it that when it comes to ghosts) tales of hauntings in Charleston?
KW: Growing up, my father loved to read true ghost stories to my brothers and me—usually right before bedtime. I also had a grandmother who always spoke about conversations she’d had with dead relatives. I suppose that’s the reason why I thought ghosts were like doilies on the backs of chairs—some people had them, some people didn’t. I continue to enjoy ghost stories (I listen to several podcasts on the subject) and, even though I have never had an experience, my son has three times.
When visiting Charleston, I love going on haunted walking tours (especially the graveyard ones) and always pick up fascinating tidbits to be used later in my books. I’ve never borrowed a ghost story for my books, but tend to pick and choose certain parts of favorites and mix them together to fit into my stories.
JA: Do you live in an older home?
KW: Sadly, no. My husband isn’t a fan of old houses (and in my first book, the derogatory remarks Melanie makes about old houses came right from his litany of why he dislikes old houses—mostly having to do with the expense of heating them). Every house I’ve lived in since the old Edwardian building in London has been brand new. I’m hoping my daughter and I can get sway him to our side when it’s time to move again. Hopefully to Charleston.
JA: Besides a great story and enjoyable read, are there any other take-aways you’d like for readers to get from The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?
KW: This installment can be read on its own. However, I do think that readers might enjoy the series more if read in order starting with the first book. The books each have their own mystery to be solved, but the growing cast of characters and Melanie’s growth through the series is an important element and best understood if readers meet her in book #1.
JA: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
KW: Yes, there are ghosts and some spooky scenes in all of the books. But these are not paranormal or thriller type books. These are character-driven stories centered around Melanie Middleton and her relationships with family and friends and set in the gorgeous and historical city of Charleston, South Carolina. This is Southern Women’s Fiction—with the added bonus of a few spirits who need Melanie’s help to solve a mystery.